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Renewable Heat Incentive Scheme (Amendment) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2017

Part of Executive Committee Business – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 7:00 pm on 23rd January 2017.

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Photo of Jim Allister Jim Allister Traditional Unionist Voice 7:00 pm, 23rd January 2017

No one's land can be vested without compensation. Indeed, you bring me on almost to the second point. Where you are not satisfied with what is offered to you in the vesting, you have the right of appeal to the Lands Tribunal.

The second thing, I remind you, that was in the SpAd Bill, was not just that there had to be compensation for anyone removed but that anyone so removed had a right of appeal for what they had lost to the arrangements set up by the Bill. Again, there is no right of appeal within these regulations for anyone, on hardship or other grounds, such as Dr Capper has suggested, in consequence.

So, it does seem to me that these regulations are very likely to be challenged, and they are not obviously judge-proof. We will see what happens to them, but I would be fearful about their probity, because they so directly negate the rights that come from the protocol to the European Convention — it is just not there. We will see what happens.

I fear that the regulations are further at risk because of the process that has been deployed to get us to this point. We know in this House — I raised it — that we have essentially bypassed Standing Order 43, in large measure. We know, and the Minister certainly knows, that there is a document that governs these matters. The Minister will be familiar with it from his time in the Department of Finance, if not before. It is the document, 'Managing Public Money Northern Ireland'. It is quite a volume that sets out the requirements including for when you are changing the law. At A.2.2.1, it says:

"In preparing all legislation, departments must always consult and get DFP agreement ... before any proposals for legislation with financial implications are submitted to the Executive for policy approval".

These regulations, whether it is positive or negative, have financial implications. Certainly, they have financial implications for the beneficiaries. They fly in the face of the requirements of 'Managing Public Money', which requires that in their preparation the Department of Finance must have been consulted and must have agreed. Perhaps it was consulted, but it does not seem to have agreed. We have a flagrant breach of 'Managing Public Money' arise. Where that is relevant is that, when it comes to a legal challenge to these regulations, the court will be entitled to look behind how they were made and at whether they were adequately and properly made.

This also arises where it says, within that same paragraph of 'Managing Public Money', that you must prepare, consult and get DFP agreement on an explanatory and financial memorandum. They have not done that either.

It says:

"The financial implications of subordinate legislation should be explained in the Explanatory Memorandum".